Quarterly Newsletters

The Armbruster Capital Management News & Education section of our website incorporates articles, vidcasts, and newsletters specifically geared towards issues that our clients are facing today.

Portfolio Review – Q3 2020 Newsletter

The stock market’s movements so far this year can best be described as weird. That may not be an apt technical definition, but there’s no better way to put it.
The stock market dropped 35% in 31 days, and then recovered all of its losses just five months later. The S&P 500 is now close to its all-time high, which was reached in early September, post-Covid.

Chris’s Corner – Q3 2020 Newsletter

As we enter the final quarter of 2020 many of us start to think of year-end charitable giving. Despite a difficult year for the economy and wild stock market swings, preliminary data from Fidelity and Giving USA suggest that Americans have stepped up their philanthropy, increasing donations by almost 16% so far in 2020. Perhaps that should not be surprising, as it turns out America is the most generous nation when it comes to charitable giving. Per Philanthropy Roundtable, annual private philanthropy in the U.S. represents almost 1.44% of GDP This is twice as high as the 0.77% recorded in Canada, nearly three times as high as the U.K.’s 0.54%, and in stark contrast to China’s 0.03%.

Does the Election Really Matter? – Q3 2020 Newsletter

Vice President Joe Biden says the coming election is a “battle for the soul of the nation.” President Donald Trump has declared this the “most important election in U.S. history.” Perhaps. Or perhaps the nation’s deep partisan divide is just the way the world goes ‘round. Maybe, as John Prine suggests, we’re extrapolating out the worst-case scenarios because that is human nature.

Portfolio Review – Q2 2020 Newsletter

The second quarter was marked by a global pandemic, a largely paralyzed global economy, racial tensions that boiled over into violence, heightened political discord, record jobless claims with 40 million people unemployed, continuing business failures, geopolitical tensions with Hong Kong largely being subsumed by China, locusts in India and Pakistan that could result in famine, and even murder hornets in the pacific northwest. So, of course, the stock market rose, posting its best quarterly performance in over 20 years.

Value Stocks: Overdue? – Q2 2020 Newsletter

Making and saving money is hard. Perhaps that is why human beings are wired to look for bargains. We’re constantly looking for sales, coupons, rebates, and discounts. It feels better to know you didn’t overpay for something.

Chris’s Corner – Q2 2020 Newsletter

When the CARES Act was signed into law on March 27th it suspended Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for 2020. It also allowed account holders to redeposit any prior distributions up to 60 days from the date of withdrawal. This was good news for many, as it potentially meant a lower tax bill for 2020 since there could be less reportable income.

New Benchmark – Q2 2020 Newsletter

Investment performance needs to be put into context to be truly meaningful. For example, assume you earned a 10% return over some period. Is that good? It seems so at first, but what if all your neighbors got returns of 11%? Or, what if the overall stock market was up 15%? The same return can look different under different assumptions.

Firm News – Q2 2020 Newsletter

Our newest team member is Kim O’Brien. Kim will be helping with reception, account maintenance, cashiering requests, and other service-related duties.

Portfolio Review – Q1 2020 Newsletter

Our discussion of the capital markets for the first quarter could be quite brief: it was bad. However, there are some interesting sound bites worth noting:

What Are Factors? – Q1 2020 Newsletter

Factor-based investing, or what has become known as “Smart Beta” is a strategy that has been prevalent in academic and larger institutional realms for many years. However, it is just recently trickling down to the investment advisor and retail investor world.

Chris’s Corner – Q1 2020 Newsletter

Relief for some is on the way. As during most times of economic stress, our elected officials are racing to roll out multiple programs to help reduce the financial impact to businesses and individuals. Here are a few provisions that have been put into action that may be of help.

Firm News – Q1 2020 Newsletter

Last year was a good one for our firm. We wrote previously about adding Steve Sheflin to our investment team. We’ll likely add another capable body or two in the coming year, and are already interviewing to support our growth.

Compliance Corner – Q1 2020 Newsletter

We are in a highly regulated business, which causes a few headaches, but regulations are largely good; they offer our clients important protections. There are certain disclosures that we are required to make regularly regarding our policies and procedures.

Portfolio Review – Q4 2019 Newsletter

The S&P 500 rose 32% for 2019. Looking at data back to 1926, that was the 18th best year for the stock market, placing it in the top 20% of annual gains. However, that understates the actual achievement, as many of the better years occurred during or in the wake of the Great Depression when stocks fell and rose wildly.

Chris’ Corner – The SECURE Act – Q4 2019 Newsletter

On December 20th, the President signed into law the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The law is intended to increase retirement savings by expanding investment options and changing some of the qualified account rules. The SECURE Act may help some savers, but it comes with some negative consequences for estate planning and inheritors. Let’s look at how some of the changes affect you.

Firm News – Q4 2019 Newsletter

Last year was a good one for our firm. We wrote previously about adding Steve Sheflin to our investment team. We’ll likely add another capable body or two in the coming year, and are already interviewing to support our growth.

Portfolio Review – Q3 2019 Newsletter

The third quarter was mediocre in terms of investment returns. Large-cap stocks in the U.S. were up 1.7%, but most other stocks lost money. Bonds actually outpaced stocks in the third quarter, with a gain of 2.3%. Real estate was the bigger winner, earning 7.3% as investors sought out more stable segments of the stock market. See full investment returns for the quarter and year-to-date in the nearby chart.

Chris’ Corner – Year End Planning – Q3 2019 Newsletter

As the days grow short and foliage begins to change, our thoughts naturally are drawn to year-end financial planning. Maxing out contributions to 401(k) or IRA accounts (2019 limit is $19,000, plus $6,000 catch-up), making sure your beneficiaries are up to date on your accounts, and satisfying your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) if you are over age 70.5, are popular items to consider. However, a few lesser known topics are also worthy of consideration:

Firm News – Q3 2019 Newsletter

We are excited to announce that Steve Sheflin is our new Chief Investment Officer. We’re also proud that Colby Feane was recently named as a 2019 Forty Under 40 honoree by the Rochester Business Journal.

Portfolio Review – Q2 2019 Newsletter

The second quarter was another strong period for stocks, and surprisingly strong for bonds. Large-cap stocks, as represented by the S&P 500, led the way with a gain of 4.3%. Mid-cap, small-cap, and international stocks all generated respectable returns, but lagged the S&P 500.

Challenging Times Ahead – Q2 2019 Newsletter

A year and a half ago, we wrote articles on how the economy could continue to grow for three more years and the stock market could increase 30% from March 2018. We based our stock market forecast on valuations, despite the fact that many thought stocks were already overvalued.

Firm News – Q2 2019 Newsletter

A year and a half ago, we wrote articles on how the economy could continue to grow for three more years and the stock market could increase 30% from March 2018. We based our stock market forecast on valuations, despite the fact that many thought stocks were already overvalued.

Economic and Investment Overview – Q1 2019 Newsletter

Lately, the stock market has been a lot like the weather in Rochester, NY. If you don’t like it, you only have to wait three months for things to radically change. The fourth quarter of last year was one of the worst since the Great Depression. But we didn’t have to wait long for redemption. It arrived early this year, with a 13.6% gain in the first quarter (see market segment returns in the nearby graph).

A True Investment Loss – Q1 2019 Newsletter

Perhaps the fiercest advocate for the individual investor and shareholder rights ever to walk the planet died during the first quarter: John C. Bogle, who preferred to be called Jack by his legion of friends, founder of the Vanguard Group. Jack was best known for launching the first index mutual fund in 1976. This new approach to investing would ultimately revolutionalize the entire industry

Compliance Corner – Q1 2019 Newsletter

We are in a highly regulated business, which causes a few headaches, but regulations are largely good; they offer our clients important protections. There are certain disclosures that we are required to make regularly regarding our policies and procedures.

Portfolio Review – Q4 2018 Newsletter

Stocks posted their worst returns since 2008 last year. Most of the damage occurred in the fourth quarter when stocks dropped 13.5%. This was the 12th worst quarterly performance since the Great Depression.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? – Q4 2018 Newsletter

The stock market declined by 4.4% in 2018. It was the first year stocks posted a loss since 2008. The S&P 500 rose 20% in 2017, 12% in 2016, and more than 13% annualized over the last decade. Yet, a one-year decline of 4% has caused all sorts of consternation. I admit that the peak-to-trough loss was much larger (17.5% so far), and the fourth quarter was one of the worst on record (down 13.5% in just three months).

Alternatives Out Of Focus – Q4 2018 Newsletter

They say all the world loves a clown. That may be true, but one thing I know that is even truer is that all the world currently hates alternative investments.

Flourish Cash Management – Q4 2018 Newsletter

Interestingly, cash was the best performing asset class in 2018, earning 1.8%. That’s a pretty meager return, but it was better than losing money in stocks or breaking even in bonds.

Portfolio Review – Q3 2018 Newsletter

The third quarter of 2018 was a mixed bag for investors. Stocks, at least domestic stocks, performed admirably. The S&P 500 rose 7.7% in the quarter and is now up 10.6% year-to-date. Small-cap stocks have performed even better so far this year, rising 14.5%.

Mid-term Elections and the Market – Q3 2018 Newsletter

The mid-term elections are right around the corner. That means that the phone is ringing with questions about how the elections could impact the stock market. Generally, we prefer to keep politics and investing separate, but we grudgingly accept that they can influence one another in the short run.

Firm News – Q3 2018 Newsletter

October 1st was our ten-year anniversary. It is true that Armbruster Capital was incorporated a little over nine years ago. However, Mark started working at our predecessor firm, and building what would become Armbruster Capital, a decade ago.

Eight More Years of Economic Expansion? – Q3 2018 Newsletter

Where is the US economy headed?
Recent news coverage about an inverted yield curve, potential trade wars, and troubles in emerging markets have created some unease.

Portfolio Review – Q2 2018 Newsletter

While it may come as a surprise, the second quarter of 2018 was actually quite strong for stock investors. The S&P 500 rose 3.4%, mid-cap stocks gained 4.3%, and small-cap stocks returned almost 9.0%. Even REITs rebounded in the quarter for a gain of 7.8%.

A Tale of Two Markets – Q2 2018 Newsletter

Certainly, we’re in a divided age currently where the glass could look half full or half empty depending on which side of the political aisle you sit. Unfortunately, that has been true for some time now. The same dynamic is also at play in the stock market.

Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults – Q2 2018 Newsletter

The SEC recently approved two new rules: (1) the adoption of new FINRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) to permit members to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from the accounts of customers where there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation of these customers; and

Portfolio Review – Q1 2018 Newsletter

Volatility has returned. While stock market returns were truly remarkable in 2017, the good times only continued into late January of this year. Since then, the market declined more than 8% from its peak into the end of the quarter. However, the downturn isn’t the real story.

Alternatives In Focus: Alternative Lending – Q1 2018 Newsletter

We started using the Stone Ridge Alternative Lending fund (LENDX) roughly a year and a half ago. It has returned around 6% annualized since we started investing, which is in-line with our long-term expectations for alternative investments.

Small Cap Value…Time to Shine? – Q1 2018 Newsletter

Small-cap value stocks have been uniquely poor performers recently. They posted strong returns in 2016, but otherwise, each of the past seven years small-cap value stocks have either significantly lagged or just barely beat large-cap growth stocks.

Current Thinking – Q4 2017 Newsletter

With the exception of Donald Trump and Bitcoin, stock market valuations seem to be making the most headlines these days.

Index Investing – Q4 2017 Newsletter

Index investing was much in the news in 2017. An article in the Wall Street Journal in late November noted that U.S. index funds have seen cash inflows of around $1.7 trillion since 2009, compared with outflows of nearly $1 trillion for actively-managed mutual funds. Another article noted that investors had collectively invested $436.5 billion this year into index funds globally through December 20, according to EPFR Global.

Alternatives in Focus – Q4 2017 Newsletter

While 2017 was a great year for stocks, it was mediocre for alternative investments. The benchmark index we often look at, the HFRI Fund-Weighted Composite Index, earned 8.5% last year. While that isn’t too bad, our alternative investments did not produce returns in that range.

Portal Launch – Q4 2017 Newsletter

With the new technology we implemented last year, we have been able to offer clients a portal to log into their accounts to run various detailed reports on their portfolios. We believe this has been a great success.

2018 Tax Facts – Q4 2017 Newsletter

1.$18,500 maximum salary deferral to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan (up $500 from 2017).

Compliance Corner – Q4 2017 Newsletter

We are in a highly regulated business, which causes a few headaches, but is largely a good thing that offers our clients important protections. There are certain disclosures we are required to make regularly regarding our policies and procedures. A few of them are

Socially Responsible Investing in the US

Today, socially responsible investing, or SRI, accounts for around 25 percent of all managed assets in the U.S. The percentage is even higher in Europe and is rising fast in parts of Asia. SRI investing can take many forms, but the most popular is negative screening. That means excluding companies that participate in undesirable activities, such as the manufacture of tobacco products, weapons or fossil fuels. However…

Portfolio Review – Q3 2017 Newsletter

The third quarter of 2017 was one of continued political strife at home, missile launches and increasing tension in Asia, several devastating natural disasters, and efforts by the Federal Reserve to slow the economy. In the face of that, the stock market rose to record highs.

Identity Theft – Q3 2017 Newsletter

By now, everyone is aware of the massive data breach at Equifax. Something like 143 million Americans had their personal information exposed in the hack. That effectively means that every American adult was impacted. You can check to see if you are on the list here: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. I’ll bet you are.

Alternatives In Focus: Reinsurance – Q3 2017 Newsletter

Our alternative investment portfolio was looking pretty good through August of this year. All of the funds except one were in the black, and returns were on track for around a 6% gain. Then September hit.

The Market Is Going Up – Q3 2017 Newsletter

What if someone told you that there was more upside in the market from today’s levels? What if they said it could rise 4,445% from here?

Tax Planning Time – Q3 2017 Newsletter

As hard as it may be to believe, yearend is just around the corner, and that means it is time to think about tax planning. This year, it seems that year-end tax planning is facing a perfect storm of unknowns.

Firm News – Q3 2017 Newsletter

We may have announced it before, but we recently updated our website. There are a host of resources there, including electronic versions of all our newsletters, articles, and even a few videos. We try to send most of this to you directly, but there are a few items that you likely missed.

Portfolio Review – Q2 Newsletter

The rally in investment assets continued in the second quarter of 2017. All major asset classes earned positive returns for the quarter, and most have posted very strong returns year-to-date.

Alternatives in Focus – Q2 Newsletter

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about our alternative investments recently, so we thought we would introduce a new, at least quasi-regular, column in our newsletter  focusing on this asset class. We’ll talk this time about  why we  use alternative investments, but in the future, we’ll do a deeper review of some of the funds.

Firm News – Q2 Newsletter

We recently added a new team member. Craig Julien joined us in early June to help us with our systems, operations, and IT. Craig has a couple decades of experience in the IT industry, most recently with the accounting firm EFPR Group. Accordingly, Craig knows firsthand about data security and the importance of confidentiality in the financial industry. He’s already done a great job of tweaking our systems so they are more efficient and user friendly, and we’re looking forward to some enhancements that will make electronic account access easier for our clients as well.

Indexing Fares Well Over the Long Term

Standard & Poor’s recently released its biannual study of mutual fund performance. S&P looks at the performance of actively-managed mutual funds versus appropriate stock market indices to see if the funds, as a group, added value for their investors.

Portfolio Review – Q1 Newsletter

The first quarter of 2017 was a solid one for stock investors. Large-cap stocks rose over 6.0% in the quarter, as measured by the returns of the S&P 500 index. Historically, election years and the first year of a Presidential term are the strongest for stocks, and 2017 is shaping up to follow the historic pattern.

Stock Market Valuation

It is conference season, which means we’ve been on the road lately meeting with fund companies and hearing about their latest research. One point that virtually everyone is making these days is that traditional asset classes (stocks and bonds) are richly valued, and likely won’t generate the same level of returns in the future that we have experienced historically.

The ACM Journal 2016 Q4

Portfolio Review The financial markets were a mixed bag in 2016. Despite early volatility, stocks ended the year on a

The ACM Journal 2016 Q3

Portfolio Review Investment returns in the third quarter were strong and rewarded risk taking. Looking at the U.S. stock market,